News / Europe

Will Ukraine Join NATO Anytime Soon?

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen waits for the start of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, April 1, 2014
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen waits for the start of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, April 1, 2014
NATO ministers this week reaffirmed their committment to collective defense following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.  

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen used strong language to describe Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea.

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is the gravest threat to European security in a generation.”

That view is shared by Charles Kupchan, a NATO expert at Georgetown University.

“There have been other competitors for that honor, including the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008,” said Kupchan.  “But I think this represents the most serious development in that Mr. [Vladimir] Putin has broken the rules.  He has done so in a way that threatens a rules-based international system.”

Kupchan said for the first time since the collapse of the Berlin Wall (1989) NATO is thinking about increasing its ability to defend the territorial integrity of its member states.  
 
“We’ve seen F-15s, F-16s [jet fighters] and AWACS [surveillance planes] deployed in central Europe," he said. "And so in that respect, we are witnessing what could be the return of militarized rivalry between Russia and the West.  We are not there yet, but if Putin doesn’t hold off, we will be headed in that direction.”

NATO to Defend its Members

NATO’s 28 members are committed to the notion of “collective defense” - in other words, an attack on one member is an attack on all of them.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 12 countries from eastern and central Europe (Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) have become NATO members.

Charles Kupchan said President George W. Bush favored NATO membership for two other states.

Ukraine NATO Membership on Hold

“In 2008, there was a discussion about the possibility of putting Ukraine on a path to membership along with Georgia. Washington was pushing that agenda,” said Kupchan.  “There was considerable resistance coming from Europe.  And I think it is safe to say that the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO is on ice for now - maybe on ice permanently - we do not know.”

Sean Kay, NATO expert at Ohio Wesleyan University said public opinion surveys in Ukraine in 2008 indicated only about 30 percent of the population favored NATO membership.

“So we were really pushing something that the Ukrainians did not want, the Russians said was clearly going to be a problem - and for some reason we pushed that,” said Kay.  “And ironically it made it more difficult to get Russian help on Iran and - what did we gain out of that?  Virtually nothing - and I think history is going to treat that 2008 NATO declaration rather poorly.”

That declaration simply stated that NATO leaders agreed that Ukraine and Georgia “will become members of NATO” - but no time frame was given.

Russia Strongly Opposes Ukraine NATO Membership

Sean Kay says Putin has been consistently against Ukraine’s NATO membership “because from his point of view, he has used the role of NATO as a way to rally this Russian sentiment of defeat and humiliation and therefore they have to do bold things to be respected, when in fact that is actually counterproductive to Russia’s own interests.”

Analysts point to Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “a bold thing.”  Experts wonder whether Putin has other “bold things” in mind.
 
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Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Vytautas Ezerskis from: USA
April 04, 2014 12:49 AM
Of course Ukraine should be included in NATO. Russians can't do dictate to other independent countries . Kaliningrad-Königsberg located next to Lithuania and Poland and it is very militarized by Russians enclave. Other NATO countries must to to be sure that they will not be attacked like Ukraine.


by: charlie from: california
April 03, 2014 4:15 PM
Should NATO allow the Ukraine to join is the right question. And the answer is NO. Why? It wont help anybody be any safer. Do we want to push the Russians away from Europe or give them a space between Europe and Russia which is free but non-aligned, like Finland and Austria during the Cold War. Let the EU bring the Ukraine in under its economic umbrella but leave the Ukraine out of the US based military pact unless you want to up the ante for a nuclear war with Russia. Russia exists, it is not in the Western orbit and to ignore the presence of the largest country on Earth, with one of the largest military capabilities at the heart of Europe is insane or blind.

In Response

by: charlie from: California
April 28, 2014 6:00 PM
Ethan; Germany went through Belguim to reach France in WWI. Do you know where Poland and Belguim are the map? Only Belguim is between them. Poland wasn't independent in 1914. Socrates; We are as prepared for war in the US as we can get short of filing for bankruptcy. We have the guns. But a war with Russia would cost us more than a bankruptcy would cover. You're in safe place, Australia. I live in a bull's eye come war.

In Response

by: Ethan from: Virginia
April 27, 2014 8:30 PM
but if russia invades ukraine it will start a war the same way ww1 started when germany wanted to invade france, they had to go through poland, thats why great britain got involved

In Response

by: Socrates from: Australia
April 04, 2014 5:22 AM
Your solution is NOT a good option anyway.What do you do if Russia invades Ukriane and annexes the whole Ukraine as USSR did to Eastern European countries in Cold war era ?
Western European countries refused to accept Russia as European country since it declared independent 800 years ago.
Russia has been practicing "Expansionism/Chauvinism to expand its territory ever since.Putin has assumed himself as the Third Tsar who will conquer the whole Europe whenever he can regardless Nato expands its influence or NOT.
If you want to leave in Peace.You must prepare for War.


by: reason from: Boston
April 03, 2014 4:13 PM
What happens if Russian states that it will invade Ukraine if Nato will start to pursue the agenda?

Because Russia will.

Are YOU sitting in your comfortable home really want this?

US needs to stop stirring trouble in someoneelses backyards.


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